James Lees-Milne (1908-97) - known to friends as Jim - is remembered for his work for the National Trust, rescuing some of England's greatest architectural treasures, and for the vivid and entertaining diaries which have earned him a reputation as 'the twentieth-century Pepys'. In this long-awaited biography, Michael Bloch portrays a life rich in contradictions, in which an unassuming youth overtook more dazzling contemporaries to emerge as a leading figure in the fields of conservation and letters. It describes Jim's bisexual love life, his tempestuous marriage to the exotic Alvilde, and his friendship with other fascinating literary figures including John Betjeman, Robert Byron, Rosamond Lehmann, and the Mitford sisters (whose brother Tom had been Jim's great love at Eton). It depicts a man who was romantically attached to the England of his childhood and felt out of tune with his own times, but who left an enduring legacy through the preservation of country houses and his eloquent chronicling of a dying world.
Michael Bloch read law at St John's College, Cambridge, and was called to the bar by the Inner Temple. Appointed James Lees-Milne's literary executor in 1997, he edited the final five volumes of the complete diary and most recently has edited and introduced the three abridged volumes.